Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Exercise & Memory

Aerobic exercise, any activity that raises your heart rate, improves cognitive capacity.  New research indicates that improved blood flow to the memory-processing hippocampus may explain how cognitive function is improved.

The study involved 30 participants with mild cognitive impairment who trained for 25-30 minutes, 3 times per week for a year.  They were divided into two groups: 15 (7 females, 8 males, average age 66.4) did aerobic exercise training and 15 (7 females, 8 males, average age 66.1) did stretch training.  After a year, the exercise group showed a 47% improvement in memory scores compared to the stretching group.  Brain scans of the exercise group showed increased blood flow in 2 brain regions that are important to memory, the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex.

Other research has shown that exercise is correlated with slower weakening of the hippocampus; aging athletes have better blood flow into the cortex than sedentary older people; and adults with lower fitness levels experienced faster deterioration of white matter, the brain cells that transport information throughout the brain.

Takeaway:  Exercise is an investment in brain health and cognitive capacity.  It is never too late for busy attorneys to schedule time to exercise.

Sources

Thomas, Binu P. et al., Brain Perfusion Change in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment After 12 Months of Aerobic Exercise Training, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, May 19, 2020, https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad190977

Neuroscience News, Exercise Improves Memory and Boosts Blood Flow to Brain, May 21, 2020, https://neurosciencenews.com/exercise-memory-bloodflow-16440/

Debra S. Austin, Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die From Law School Stress and How Neural Self-Hacking Can Optimize Cognitive Performance, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 791, 802, 828-34, 856 (2013) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2227155.

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